Five Types Of Alcoholics

Discover the five types of alcoholics & how to recognize the signs. Seek professional help for addiction & achieve a fulfilling life.

By Rosewood Recovery Team
July 10, 2024

Five Types Of Alcoholics

Alcoholism is a complex and multifaceted condition that affects individuals from all walks of life. It is essential to have a clear understanding of alcoholism to address its impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole. This section will explore the definition of alcoholism, the spectrum of alcohol use disorder, and the importance of identifying different types of alcoholics.

Definition of Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic and progressive condition characterized by the compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol. Individuals with alcoholism often experience a strong craving for alcohol, have difficulty controlling their drinking, and continue to drink despite the negative consequences it may have on their physical health, mental well-being, and relationships.

It's important to note that alcoholism is not simply a matter of drinking excessively or frequently. It involves a loss of control over one's drinking behavior, leading to significant impairment in various aspects of life. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides specific criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder, including the presence of certain symptoms and their severity.

The Spectrum of Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder exists on a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. The severity of alcohol use disorder is determined by the number of symptoms an individual exhibits, with mild cases having fewer symptoms and severe cases having a greater number of symptoms. This spectrum recognizes that alcoholism is not a one-size-fits-all condition and that there are variations in how it manifests in different individuals.

Understanding the spectrum of alcohol use disorder is crucial for accurately identifying and addressing alcoholism. By recognizing the varying levels of severity, healthcare professionals can provide tailored treatment approaches that address the specific needs of each individual.

Importance of Identifying Different Types of Alcoholics

Identifying different types of alcoholics is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it helps healthcare professionals gain a deeper understanding of the diverse nature of alcoholism and the factors that contribute to its development. By recognizing the unique characteristics and behaviors associated with each subtype, healthcare professionals can develop individualized treatment plans that address the specific needs of each individual.

Additionally, understanding the different types of alcoholics can help families and friends of individuals struggling with alcoholism to better support their loved ones. By recognizing the specific challenges and patterns associated with each subtype, families can provide appropriate assistance and seek suitable resources to support their loved ones on their journey to recovery.

In the following sections, we will delve into the five types of alcoholics, including the young adult subtype, young antisocial subtype, functional subtype, intermediate familial subtype, and chronic severe subtype. By exploring the characteristics, behaviors, and impact of each subtype, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of alcoholism and the importance of tailored treatment approaches.

The Five Types of Alcoholics

Alcoholism is a complex disorder that manifests in various ways. Researchers have identified five distinct subtypes of alcoholics, each characterized by unique characteristics and behaviors. Understanding these different types can help in tailoring treatment approaches and support for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder. The five types of alcoholics are:

Young Adult Subtype

The Young Adult subtype refers to individuals who develop alcohol dependence during their late teens or early twenties. These individuals often have a relatively short duration of alcohol dependence and typically do not exhibit other substance abuse issues. They may have a family history of alcoholism, but they tend to have fewer severe consequences related to their drinking behavior compared to other subtypes.

Young Antisocial Subtype

The Young Antisocial subtype is characterized by individuals who not only struggle with alcoholism but also exhibit antisocial behaviors. These individuals often have a history of conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder during childhood. They may engage in impulsive and risky behaviors, and their alcohol use may be intertwined with legal issues and criminal activities.

Functional Subtype

The Functional subtype of alcoholism is unique in that individuals in this category maintain a relatively stable personal and professional life despite their alcohol use. These individuals are often middle-aged, well-educated, and employed. They may have a higher socioeconomic status compared to other subtypes. However, their alcohol consumption is typically high, and they may have an increased risk of developing health issues associated with long-term alcohol abuse.

Intermediate Familial Subtype

The Intermediate Familial subtype is characterized by individuals who have a family history of alcoholism and often start drinking at an early age. These individuals may experience periods of heavy drinking, but they may also have periods of abstinence or controlled drinking. They may have a moderate level of alcohol-related problems and tend to respond well to treatment interventions.

Chronic Severe Subtype

The Chronic Severe subtype represents the most severe form of alcoholism. Individuals in this category have a long history of alcohol dependence and experience significant physical, psychological, and social consequences as a result of their drinking. They often have co-occurring mental health disorders and may require intensive treatment interventions to address their complex needs.

Understanding the characteristics and behaviors associated with each subtype can help healthcare professionals, families, and friends better support individuals struggling with alcoholism. It's important to note that these subtypes are not mutually exclusive, and individuals may exhibit traits from multiple subtypes.

By recognizing the different types of alcoholics and tailoring treatment and support to meet their specific needs, we can improve outcomes and provide individuals with the tools they need to overcome alcohol use disorder.

Characteristics and Behaviors

Understanding the characteristics and behaviors associated with each subtype of alcoholism is essential for identifying and addressing the unique needs of individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder. The five types of alcoholics, as previously discussed, are the Young Adult Subtype, Young Antisocial Subtype, Functional Subtype, Intermediate Familial Subtype, and Chronic Severe Subtype.

Key Characteristics of Each Subtype

  • Young Adult Subtype: This subtype typically includes individuals who develop alcoholism at a young age, often in their late teens or early twenties. They tend to have a lower severity of alcohol dependence and may exhibit impulsive behavior and a higher likelihood of co-occurring drug use.
  • Young Antisocial Subtype: Individuals in this subtype often display antisocial and impulsive behaviors. They may have a history of conduct disorder during childhood and frequently engage in criminal activities. Substance abuse and other mental health disorders are common among this group.
  • Functional Subtype: Functional alcoholics are individuals who maintain their daily responsibilities and appear to have control over their lives despite their alcohol dependence. They may hold stable jobs, maintain relationships, and have a higher socioeconomic status. However, their alcohol consumption remains problematic and can lead to negative consequences.
  • Intermediate Familial Subtype: This subtype is characterized by a strong family history of alcoholism. Individuals in this group may start drinking at an earlier age and have a higher likelihood of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. They often struggle with emotional and mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
  • Chronic Severe Subtype: The chronic severe subtype represents individuals with the most severe form of alcoholism. They may have a long history of heavy drinking and consistently experience severe withdrawal symptoms. This group often faces significant challenges in multiple areas of life, including physical health, mental health, and relationships.

Common Behaviors and Patterns

While the specific behaviors and patterns can vary within each subtype, certain commonalities can be observed:

  • Increased tolerance to alcohol: Individuals across all subtypes may develop a higher tolerance to alcohol over time, requiring larger amounts to achieve the desired effects.
  • Loss of control: Alcoholics often struggle with controlling their alcohol consumption, leading to excessive and compulsive drinking.
  • Continued use despite negative consequences: Despite experiencing adverse effects on their health, relationships, and daily functioning, individuals with alcohol use disorder may continue to drink.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: When alcohol consumption is abruptly reduced or stopped, individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, anxiety, and insomnia.

Impact on Relationships and Daily Life

The impact of alcoholism on relationships and daily life can be significant, regardless of the subtype. Alcoholics may experience strained relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues. Their alcohol dependence can lead to decreased productivity at work or school, financial difficulties, and impaired decision-making abilities.

It's essential to remember that every individual's experience with alcoholism is unique. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it is crucial to seek professional help. Treatment approaches can be tailored to the specific subtype and individual needs, offering a greater chance of recovery.

Recognizing the Signs of Alcoholism

It's important to recognize the signs of alcoholism in oneself or others. Alcoholism can be a serious and debilitating condition that affects not only the person struggling with addiction, but also their loved ones. If left untreated, alcoholism can lead to a host of negative consequences like financial problems, legal troubles, and strained relationships.

The following are some common signs that may indicate a problem with alcohol:

  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Becoming defensive when questioned about drinking habits
  • Experiencing blackouts or memory loss while drinking
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home due to drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences, such as legal trouble or relationship problems
  • Developing a tolerance and needing more alcohol to feel the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as shaking or sweating

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs, it's important to seek professional help. A healthcare provider can provide an assessment and recommend appropriate treatment options. Remember, there is no shame in seeking help for addiction – it's a sign of strength and courage. With the right support and resources, it is possible to overcome alcoholism and achieve a fulfilling, healthy life.

Treatment Approaches

When it comes to addressing alcoholism, a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. Each individual's journey with alcoholism is unique, and treatment should be tailored to their specific needs. Understanding the different subtypes of alcoholics can help guide the treatment approach and provide the best chance for recovery.

Tailoring Treatment to Subtypes

Tailoring treatment to the different subtypes of alcoholics is crucial for successful outcomes. The five subtypes of alcoholics - Young Adult Subtype, Young Antisocial Subtype, Functional Subtype, Intermediate Familial Subtype, and Chronic Severe Subtype - each have their own specific characteristics and behaviors.

For example, the Young Adult Subtype often responds well to brief interventions and motivational interviewing techniques. On the other hand, the Functional Subtype may require a more comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying factors contributing to their alcohol use, such as stress or mental health issues. By understanding these differences, treatment providers can develop personalized plans that cater to the unique needs of each individual.

Importance of Individualized Care

Individualized care is essential in alcoholism treatment. Recognizing that each person's experience with alcoholism is different allows treatment providers to create a customized plan that addresses their specific challenges and goals. This involves assessing the severity of their alcohol use disorder, identifying any co-occurring mental health conditions, and considering their overall support system.

By taking a personalized approach, treatment providers can offer a range of evidence-based interventions, such as counseling, therapy, and support groups. They can also address any underlying issues that may contribute to alcohol abuse, such as trauma or co-occurring disorders. This comprehensive approach ensures that individuals receive the support and resources they need to achieve long-term recovery.

Support and Resources for Alcoholics and Their Families

Alcoholism can have a profound impact not only on the individual struggling with alcohol use, but also on their family and loved ones. It is important to recognize that support is available for both alcoholics and their families.

Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for individuals to connect with peers who have faced similar challenges. These groups offer a sense of community and understanding, and can be an invaluable source of support during the recovery process. Additionally, therapy and counseling can help individuals and their families navigate the emotional and relational complexities that arise from alcoholism.

There are also numerous resources available online and in-person that provide information on alcoholism, treatment options, and coping strategies. It is important for individuals and their families to do their research, seek out reliable sources, and reach out for professional help when needed.

By tailoring treatment to the subtypes of alcoholics, emphasizing individualized care, and providing support and resources, individuals can find the help they need to overcome alcoholism and embark on a path of recovery and wellness.


Can someone be more than one type of alcoholic?

Yes, it's possible for someone to exhibit characteristics of more than one type of alcoholic. For example, an individual may have started drinking in their early twenties (Type 1) but later developed a functional alcoholism (Type 2) as they aged.

Is there a cure for alcoholism?

While there is no known cure for alcoholism, it is treatable with professional help and ongoing support. Recovery is a lifelong journey that requires commitment and effort from the individual seeking treatment.

Can someone recover from chronic severe alcoholism?

Yes, recovery from chronic severe alcoholism is possible but may require intensive treatment and ongoing support. It's important for individuals struggling with this type of addiction to seek professional help as soon as possible.

How can I help a loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction?

Encouraging your loved one to seek professional help is the best way to support them in their journey towards recovery. You can also offer emotional support and attend therapy or support groups together. It's important to avoid enabling behaviors like providing money for alcohol or making excuses for their behavior.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of alcoholics can help us better understand and support those struggling with alcohol addiction. Recognizing the signs of alcoholism is also crucial in identifying and addressing the problem early on. Seeking professional help is important for anyone experiencing the signs of alcoholism, and there is no shame in admitting that you need help.

With the right support and resources, it is possible to overcome alcoholism and lead a fulfilling, healthy life. Remember, recovery is possible – take the first step towards a better future today.


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